There are times when the parallels between life and art intertwine so unmistakably they cannot be ignored. One such case is the drama playing out with former FOX News anchors Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly. Mr. O’Reilly has become the scourge of the earth ever since he was issued a pink slip following allegations of sexual misconduct at FOX. Meanwhile, Ms. Kelly has taken her toys over to NBC and is badly in need of some good publicity. There is nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes, so it seems entirely appropriate that the O’Reilly/Kelly saga echoes the strains of a Shakespearean tragedy – replete with a villain and wanna-be heroine.
Let’s pick up our story with Hamlet: Act III, scene II:
Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain!
Madam, how like you this play?
“This must stop,” she said, staring directly into the camera. “The abuse of women, the shaming of them, the threatening, the retaliation. The silencing of them after the fact.”
Oops, that’s Megyn Kelly, not Queen Gertrude. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” is the line that ought to be there. But wait – maybe it is one and the same. It is as if Shakespeare leaped into the 21st century for such a time as this and out of the mouth of Queen Gertrude, Kelly speaks. Let’s take a look at the modern drama.
Act I, Scene I
Former FOX News host Bill O’Reilly settles a harassment lawsuit with Legal Analyst Lis Wiehl for $32M. Ms. Wiehl alleged a series of sexual indiscretions that included things polite folk don’t like to talk about, such as a “forced, nonconsensual relationship.” Her settlement boasts a non-disclosure agreement, which compels the audience to imagine myriad acts of debauchery since the payoff essentially acts as hush money. But there’s no real way for the audience to tell, save good old-fashioned deduction.
Scene II (at NBC Studios)
On the desperately-trying-to-be-popular “Megyn Kelly Today” program, the hostess issues her imperative to the watching world (or the ten or so women sitting at home) that “This must stop.” Ms. Kelly is particularly incensed at the “silencing” of victims like Wiehl. Unlike Shakespeare, she is devoid of iambic pentameter, yet she manages to convey her message of repugnance and antipathy with tremendous drama.
The Player Queen of this Shakespearean drama is incensed. She is outraged. She doth protest with great wrath over the mistreatment of women. Her audience explodes with applause. The curtain drops.
A Critique of the Play
Perhaps there is a bit of overacting, but that is to be expected from Kelly. However, it becomes evident to even the most neophyte theatre-goer that there is a snag in this authoritative assault on men – this over-the-top, non-prime-time protest that Ms. Kelly has issued.
MEDIAite’s John Ziegler puts his finger on the trouble with our heroine’s dialogue:
My first problem with what she did yesterday is that the way she said that she “complained” to Fox News last year about O’Reilly gave the false impression (to at least some casual viewers and headline readers), possibly on purpose, that she had directly accused O’Reilly of some sort of sexual transgression. In reality, she had written an email to her bosses complaining about how O’Reilly had attacked the portions of her book about disgraced former Fox News chief Roger Ailes while he was a guest on CBS.
Ms. Kelly said little enough of any indiscretions she may have suffered, or of any others she knew of while climbing the ladder of success at FOX. Could this mean Kelly only spoke of the harassment culture at FOX when it served her purposes? Did she steer clear of the simmering sexual harassment atmosphere while making millions at FOX, only to pipe up about Roger Ailes & Company on her way out the door?
Playing the heroine is a heavy lift, even for Megyn Kelly. Now that her audience – what there is of it – is made up of mostly women, she senses a desperate need to become the “Supreme Defender of her Gender.” Could it be her motivation only serves her egotistical tendencies, her career, and her image?
But a Shakespeare heroine Ms. Kelly is not. Her on-air remonstrations reek of insincerity and ooze of self-serving publicity. One cannot help but wonder if Kelly could benefit from the advice of Hamlet’s Polonius:
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”